What to do when you are having difficulties at learning new English vocabulary

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How to learn new English vocabulary

There is no doubt that learning new English vocabulary takes a lot of work and effort, and there are no quick fixes, even if you are doing an English course. But there are a few tricks that will help you to learn English vocab more effectively and efficiently. So here is cheat sheet that should take the pain out of memorising a load of words.

My first bit of advice would be to listen out for phrases rather than singular words. Any language, the English language included, is easier to learn when you learn it in chunks. It also teaches you more of how a word works in a sentence rather than trying memorise it and then insert it into a sentence later.

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Immersing yourself in the language is a great way to force yourself to pick up new vocabulary quickly, but it can be daunting to throw yourself right in the deep end. There is no doubt speaking to native speakers of that language is the best way to practice as well. But if you don’t want to move to the UK or if you’re not in an English Language school, just translating your everyday life into English to yourself can be a great step in that direction. You might look a little odd but I promise you if you describe what you see or what you are doing to yourself in the English language you will quickly identify what you know and the new words you need to learn and focus on.

If you think of your native language, you are always learning new vocabulary, so why would it be different when learning a second language? A clever way to help you learn new words is to increase how often you see or hear them. So put them on post-its, write them on your mirror, stick them to the ceiling above your bed, any way you can maximise how often you interact with them the better!

Try learning vocabulary closer to your own interests! It’s always easier to learn words that help you talk about what you like to talk about. That could be certain genres of movies or music, or maybe sports vocabulary. Arts also tend to have their own set of vocabulary as well. Context hugely influences how/which words we use in sentences and phrases, so if you learn specific phrases that are used a lot in your area of interest, it will make learning English vocabulary much easier and quicker.

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Apps and multimedia. Most of us spend a huge portion of our day either on our mobile phones or browsing the internet. So why wouldn’t you choose to learn new vocab while doing these things. There are a few apps that really help with learning new words. Look up ‘Anki’ and the quite famous ‘DuoLingo’ to get an app that will help teach you. But don’t stop there! Watch YouTube videos in another language with the subtitles turned on, listen to podcasts, e-books or music in the other language to help refine your listening skills and pick up new words! Use google translate to quickly identify what a new word means. There are also a number of extensions for the chrome browser that translate part of your webpage into the language you are trying to learn, that way you learn what a word is through the context of what is around it (you can also hover over the word and it will translate it back into your native language) these are all quite new methods of learning new vocabulary but they are all proving to be very effective.

Another way to learn vocabulary is to play around with the words. In order for your memory to really take hold of the new English vocabulary they need to make some kind of impression. Lots of people use a mnemonic process to do this. A mnemonic process is a system that helps you memorise things, some people sing songs with the vocabulary making up the lyrics, Sherlock Holmes used a ‘mind palace’. It doesn’t really matter which technique you use, but using a technique that works for the way you think makes learning English vocabulary not only quicker but more fun as well. I personally attach new words to memories, so if I embarrass myself I will attach the new word ‘embarrass’ to that memory. When I need to remember what the word is, I just remember the time I embarrassed myself and it helps me remember the word.

Flash cards are probably the most universally known method of memorising words, and as long as you’re engaging with the word while you use them they work amazingly. A really good way to engage with them is to put little hints on the cards about what it means without actually writing down the translation. That way your brain doesn’t just recall a single word, but uses the context of that word (what that word is used for, what it is similar to) to work out what it means, that level of engagement hugely improves the memorising of English vocabulary when using flash cards.

Remember the best way to learn any language (including its vocabulary) is by getting out there and speaking as much as possible, integrate the language into your life as much as you can and you will be patching up your vocab holes in no time at all. And remember you don’t have to stick to one method of learning new English vocabulary, choose what works for you. And that might change over time, there are no steadfast rules to stick to. Just whatever you do, don’t make it boring! Have fun with it, In England we have a saying “if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.” Which means that if you enjoy what you are doing it stops feeling like work and starts to be fun and something you like to do, so make learning a new language like that.

The English Language Centre has two schools located in Brighton and Eastbourne offering a range of English courses the above cheat sheet can help you prepare before joining a course or while you are learning English in the UK.